At a special meeting on Sept. 5, the Stevensville Town Council approved lighting district assessments for Twin Creeks, Creekside and Peterson subdivisions but without the administration’s recommended 3% increase.
Mayor Brandon Dewey proposed a 3% increase in the basic assessment to boost the reserve funds in the accounts based upon Finance Office Robert Underwood’s recommendation. Underwood said that the 3% increase was necessary to boost the reserve funds in the accounts to the generally accepted level of 20%.
Councilor Steve Gibson said that he opposed raising the fees.
Councilor Dempsey Vick asked about the impacts of a 1% increase versus a 3% increase.
Underwood explained again about the need for reserves and the standard measure of 20% of the budget. He said the assessments were designed to meet the costs of the electricity for the streetlights and nothing more, but that a reserve was needed to pay the bills if anyone is late in paying their taxes.
Councilor Patrick Shourd said that he was willing to go with the 3% increase because it was recommended by the finance officer, whose professional opinion he trusts. Councilor Dempsey Vick expressed a willingness to go along with it until a couple in the audience spoke during public comment, saying that they both work and a $1 increase in their taxes was a dollar they couldn’t afford.
John Munk also spoke against the increase. When asked if he would rather pay the increase or have the lights turned off if the fund runs short, he said he would rather have the lights turned off. He said there was only one light on his block anyway.
The motion under discussion to approve the assessments with a 3% raise was rescinded and a motion was passed to make the assessments with a 0% raise.
In a separate budget discussion, the Mayor asked the Council for any questions they needed answers to or disagreements they may have with his proposed budget so that he would have time to work on any changes.
Right away Councilors Robin Holcomb and Gibson let him know that they were not going to approve his salary request of $39,000 for the mayor’s position.
“I can’t justify giving the mayor a pay raise of $39,000,” said Holcomb. “You make more money than any mayor in Montana right now.”
Gibson agreed, saying, “You make more than the mayor of Billings right now.” He said the mayor’s position was never meant to be a full-time position. He disagreed with the idea of an hourly pay rate as well. Gibson also stated that he was against raising the water rates.
Mayor Dewey said that the water rate increase was adopted five years ago when the council established a series of annual increases to blunt the impact of the full increase that was required to bring the water fund into balance.
“At the next meeting, if someone hasn’t shown me the need to increase the water rates, I’m against it,” said Gibson.
The next scheduled meeting is September 12 at 6:30 p.m. Aside from the budget decision, the council will also consider:
• Performing a special audit from the time April left employment until now
• Rescinding Mayor’s compensation $25 (Holcomb/Gibson)
• Re-scheduling the 9/26/2019 Regular Meeting to 9/24/2019
• Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) Grant Agreement for Stevensville Airport Pavement Reconstruction Project
• Morrison-Maierle Task Order #3, Construction Management & Closeout for Stevensville Airport Pavement Reconstruction Project
• Award of Bid to Knife River Construction for Stevensville Airport Pavement Reconstruction Project.